The nation's labor participation rate has dwindled over the past two decades, falling from nearly 67 percent in 1996 to around 63 percent in 2016. The labor participation rate measures the percentage of Americans ages 16 and older who are either employed or looking for work. In some states, the percentage of people participating in the labor force surpasses the national average, while in others it falls far behind. U.S. News & World Report ranked the top 10 states for labor force participation based on 2015 data from the U.S. Census Bureau.
There are currently more than 6.7 million job openings in the U.S., according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The nation's economy has continued to strengthen over recent years, and the unemployment rate now sits at 3.9 percent, far lower than the 9.5 percent rate from less than a decade ago. Yet, the country's labor force participation rate, or the percentage of people who are either employed or looking for work, has fallen to 62.9 percent. There are around 17.9 million able-bodied workers age 25 to 54 who are not in the labor force, The Wall Street Journal reported this month. Participation varies greatly by state.
The 90-second video features cameos from a number of notable South Carolinians. Officials including U.S. Sens. Lindsey Graham and Tim Scott and Grammy Award-winning musician Darius Rucker explain the impact of the census and tick off ways its data helps officials determine allocations like local funding for schools and disaster response efforts.
Over the past six months, the U.S. economy has achieved a rare feat: Participation in the labor force hasn't declined once. Instead, the number of adults working or trying to find work has inched higher, month after month, a signal that the labor market has finally improved enough to bring back even the most marginalized segments of the workforce.